Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You Are What You....Read?

We have a new preacher at our church. He's from a different state, and not related to anyone in our congregation, so he's sort of an undiscovered country, so to speak. A couple of Sundays ago after services, several of us went out to eat, and I happened to end up sitting next to the  the new preacher. In the course of the conversation, I discovered that he used to have a book review blog (he talked about it in the past tense, so I think he may not be writing it anymore). So I asked about some of his favorite authors, and he mentioned Dean Koontz. I'm open to discovering authors whose work I've never read before, so I asked for a suggestion of a Koontz book I could start with. After some consideration, the preacher suggested Odd Thomas and even brought the book to me from his personal library a few days later.

I'm about a quarter of the way through Odd Thomas now. It's not really my type of book, but it's not the worst thing I've read, either. There are a number of things about the writing style that bug me, but I can live with it - no need to always be so critical, right? After last night's reading, however, I found myself wondering, what is it about this book that appealed to the new preacher?

Let me establish first that I'm not at all saying the preacher should be reading only "clean," uplifiting, religious literature. Let me also note that while there has been some innuendo thus far, that's not what caused me to ask that question. In the section I read last night, Odd had broken into the house of a man  he suspects of being about to perpetrate some great evil in town. In the course of looking around the house, he found a room that seems to be some kind of portal to a different dimension. The room is utterly dark and cold, and after he has stepped into the room, Odd sees himself silhouetted in the doorway. When he tries to go back, he's thrown out of the room, back in time to where he was before he discovered the room.

Since I don't read much science fiction, I don't really have a concept of what's going on in that room. But I do get a feeling there's going to be some kind of philosophical/psychological dimension to it, especially since one of the qualities that makes Odd odd is that he can communicate with dead people. And that brings me back to the preacher. What is it about the book that appeals to him? The action or suspense? There's going to be some, I can just tell. The quirkiness of Odd and his situation? Or is it something about this interplay between the "known" world and the "unknown" world of death and mystery?

I think the type of story a person prefers does say something about the person. For example, I know it's no accident that I like stories that are hopeful, in which things work out for the characters even if things don't work out. That's why I was disappointed in Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay; even though Katniss ends up living what looks like a good life on the surface, she feels emotionally numb and just seems to have no hope at the end of the story.

Is it that we seek out stories that confirm our way of looking at the world? Or do we impose our own mental lens on a story so that we see in it what we are looking for? I have a bit of a suspicion that as I go on reading Odd Thomas, my own worldview is going to shape what I see as I read.

Once I'm finished with the book, I hope to get to have a conversation about it with the preacher and to ask him what he saw in it. I suspect it will be an interesting conversation, judging by the level of thoughtfulness and study that are evident in his sermons so far.

One other thought: One thing that is detracting from my enjoyment as I read is my constant anticipation of the "something bad" that is going to happen in the book, ha ha. I was more than a bit upset with Odd for breaking into that house - doesn't he know it's dangerous to go into the lair of a being so obviously evil??!!


lil red hen said...

Interesting post! Maybe now I know why I like books like Hannah Fowler and The Yearling!

Jake said...

Greta, I love hearing your thoughts so far on the book. I can't wait to talk to you about it more. I wasn't sure whether or not to use this book as your introduction to Koontz, but it is the book he gets more fan mail about than any other. Odd Thomas is the first of a series (5 books so far), so I'll be interested to see your reaction at the end and whether or not you would invest more time in Odd's story. I can see where someone could love or hate this story...depending on their perception of what a good story is. We'll talk soon!